From the very moment I envisaged living on a narrowboat, one of the things that intrigued me most was how I would use the roof space. 

Once the dream bounced into reality, I found myself looking out over a 70ft by 7ft wide steel space, with all kinds of ideas popping in and out of my mind.  My friend, Caroline, and I laughed about making it a travelling rescue centre, grassing it over, building up the sides and then adopting all kinds of homeless critters to live there.  Much as I would have loved this dearly, I chose a far more conventional, sensible and easily achievable use of space and decided to create a rooftop garden.

Buddha and herbs start the rooftop garden

Buddha and herbs start the rooftop garden

It’s great having ideas and visions of a new creation, but how do you make that idea come into being?  With the rooftop garden, I popped several herbs – rosemary, thyme, chives and parsley – from the supermarket into a planter and then spent the rest of the first season telling people that I was going to grow a rooftop garden.  There were no plans for the said garden, no planters, nor compost, nor any gardening experience come to think of it, just a story that I was going to turn the roof into the garden.  What never fails to surprise me is how these stories, little by little and piece by piece, come to fruition, with what often feels like no effort whatsoever.  That’s what happened with Float by Boat and with the rooftop garden too.

Pallet + plastic = rooftop garden grow box

Pallet + plastic = rooftop garden grow box

In the first instance, my story inspired garden-related presents, like roses and castles planters and watering cans.  When Robin, my winter boat-mate, left to return home to Cambridge, he couldn’t manage to carry a huge piece of plastic, an ex-skyscraper advert, which he’d used for covering his bike.  I’d wondered how I could possibly make use of it.  Then I found an old pallet that I was sure would come in handy for something.  A small formula launched itself into my mind: Pallet plus plastic equals grow box!  So there I sat on a sunny day in March, happily splicing up the plastic and nailing it to the underside of the pallet.  A bag of compost and a few salad seeds later, I was gardening.

A Radish

A Radish

My friends found it hilarious that I was so excited but knew so little about it all.  That I was totally baffled by the idea of one radish plant just producing one radish, and one spring onion seed growing into one spring onion.  Looking at the seeds, I was mystified by the variance in shapes, sizes and colours, wondering how such a tiny item could become food.  As the seedlings began to develop, I’d spend ages on the roof looking at them, attracting shouts from fellow boaters, like “You can’t make them grow by watching them, you know!”

Grandma's cabinet drawers as a grow box on my rooftop garden

Grandma’s cabinet drawers as a grow box on my rooftop garden

A couple of months later, I’ve added 4 of my Grandma’s old cabinet drawers to the collection of grow boxes and the tumbling tomatoes that I spoke of so vividly last year are really real now.  They’re getting strong, producing fruit and starting to tumble.  Float by Boat guests have so far dined on little gem lettuces, wild rocket, spinach and radishes aplenty, with spring onions, beetroot and dwarf beans on their way.  Taking advice on board, I’m planting new seeds every 2 to 3 weeks so there’s a constant supply of fresh produce.  Seeing my passion and enthusiasm for it, kind gifts keep on arriving too.  Last week, I was handed some self-seeding English Marigold seeds, and before that a little Bay and an Oregano.

 

Tumbling tomatoes

Tumbling tomatoes

I’d always imagined myself as the kind of person who grew her own food but, having moved around so much, never actually had given it a try.  It’s amazing to see momentum building up gradually as a plan gets going and how much positive support comes when people can see you care about what you’re doing.  I think this is true for the rest of life too.

 

 

Listening to a talk recently with Jamie Catto (from Faithless and 1 Giant Leap) on Sounds True, I enjoyed an idea of his called God’s Deaf Waiters.  It fits in nicely with, so here it is:

All around you, standing to attention, looking sharp in their tailored suits stand God’s Deaf Waiters. They are primed and excited to bring you all manner of amazing delights, conjure support you never dreamed of, whisper to you great ideas and triumphantly manifest unexpected good fortunes and synchronicity to further you on your Mission.

The only thing is, they’re deaf. So they can’t take your orders or understand your desires from what you say you want. No, they can only surmise their orders and your wishes from your Actions.

When we take actions according to our passions they see us getting busy and productive and they get interested, they conclude….oh Jamie’s doing that, he’ll need one of these…. and they stylishly come up with timely gifts that we’d never have imagined were just what we needed, yet summoned by our intent, fueled by our productivity and commitment, God’s Deaf Waiters are all around us, waiting to serve our highest excitements.

Tip big.